Mercer: Work to finish

Published 1:04 am Sunday, October 30, 2011

“Really, there’s a number of things we’ve started that I’d like to see finished,” Doug Mercer said when asked why he’s seeking re-election to the Washington City Council. “We’ve hired a new city manager, and I’d like to work with him for awhile and see if we can’t get some things accomplished that need to be done.”

Mercer, one of eight candidates seeking a seat on the five-member council, discussed what he sees as the top issues the city faces.

“The major issue is the utility rates, particularly the electric rate.  We need to reduce those if we can, but that’s a difficult job because we are locked into a wholesale rate,” he said.

“We need to begin to live within our means. In last five years, the city’s revenues in our general fund have been less than our expenditures. We can’t continue to operate like that. You can’t live on your savings account, and the city can’t either.”

Mercer offered his thoughts on addressing the rates issue.

“In order to address the utility issues, we need to reduce operating and maintenance expenditures in those areas,” he said. “We buy $28 million worth of electricity. We sell it for $35 million. But we spend that $7 million every year. If we can reduce our expenses, we can take the extra money and turn it back into cuts in rates or put it into a rate stabilization fund, which will allow us to maintain or reduce our rates. Just like at home — if you have a paycheck, you know you can spend every penny of that paycheck, but if something comes up and there’s an emergency, you don’t have anything in the bank. You have to have a rainy-day fund or, in our case, it’s called a fund balance.”

He explained his view on the city’s fiscal policies.

“We’ve just got learn to pay as we go. We’ve got to quit borrowing money. That’s all there is to it,” he said. “For example, a new police station that was going to cost us $4 million. We could’ve borrowed that $4 million, but we have to pay it back, and we already have a substantial debt load. We have to put it on hold until we can save some money or find a way to build a new police station that doesn’t cost so much. It’s not that we don’t need a new facility — it’s an old building, it’s crowded — we just can’t afford to build a $4 million facility.”